MONAHANS, Texas — Staff Sgt. Chad Staples was serving as an Army sniper in Baghdad in April 10, 2007, when his convoy was ambushed.
Staples, a 2002 graduate of Jay High School in Maine, was serving his second tour of duty as an Army Ranger in Iraq. During the firefight that followed the ambush, he provided cover fire for a downed soldier and then used his body to shield that soldier and a medic when they were going back to the truck. A bullet pierced Chad Staples’ body armor and paralyzed him from the waist down, his father said.
But Staples, who is a recipient of the Bronze Star Medal for Valor, said when a Best Western employee in Monahans mocked him and laughed at him when he asked for help down the stairs from his third-floor hotel room because the elevator was broken, he questioned the nation for which he fought.
“I didn’t need to be carried down the stairs, let’s get that clear," Staples said. "I needed somebody to help me get my bags and wheelchair down the stairs. I’ve never had that bad of a day where I’m just randomly rude to someone — and the consequence is that (someone is) stuck at the top floor of a hotel.”
Although Best Western has issued a corporate statement offering an apology and has called Staples several times, he said he was not yet accepting their apology.
A corporate news release stated that the company had apologized to Staples and refunded his hotel bill, as well as expressed the company’s support for the armed forces and promised that its branches strive to “ensure that all our guests are treated with dignity and respect."
The Monahans News reported hotel owner Andy Patel said staff could have injured Staples if they attempted to help him. Patel also told The News that hotel policy is to call EMS to request help, but he was not sure why that policy was not followed.
“This is a very unfortunate thing,” Patel said to The News. “I have worked very hard in Monahans for 30 years.”
Patel told The News that when he checked Staples in, Staples had no problem being on the third floor, and that other rooms were unavailable because Staples was checking in earlier than the 3 p.m. check-in time.
Staples said several Best Western-representative calls have included excuses and one seemed a sincere apology with the willingness to change. But it’s not enough.
“Apologies mean nothing. Actual actions mean everything,” Staples said. “Nothing has changed. They haven’t fired that woman and they haven’t changed their policies.”
An emailed statement attributed to Craig Smith, director of communications for Best Western International, stated that they believed in a call from a senior vice president, Staples “expressed there was nothing further he expected on our end,” which Staples denied. However, Staples said he had no interest in a lawsuit.
Staples’ father, Bob Staples of Jay, Maine, said he was appalled when he learned of his son’s story.
“Whether he’s military or not, he has a disability," Bob Staples said. "You don’t treat anybody like that, but you certainly don’t treat someone with a disability like that. He gave up his ability to walk to save the life of another person. And he did; he saved the lives of other people.”
Chad Staples said the exchange with the employee began six hours after he checked into the hotel to rest on his trip from California to North Carolina, where he lives.
When he woke up, rolling blackouts caused the elevator to be shut down, and he called the front desk to ask for help.
The woman who answered mocked his request, Staples said.
“She said, ‘Are you serious?’” Staples said. He answered, “Yes, I’m in a wheelchair.”
Then Staples said she retorted, “What do you want me to do about it?” causing him to hang up the phone.
When he spoke with a manager, Staples said the man claimed he couldn’t do anything.
After Staples posted the story on his Facebook profile, it went viral, with many calling for a boycott and criticizing Best Western on its main Facebook page and in blogs.
Staples requested in his original story that people boycott the chain, and his story has been picked up by CNN’s iReport and several veteran advocate websites, including Guardian of Valor.
Both Staples men said they support the boycott of Best Westerns.
David Cutbirth, the mayor of Monahans, said he was shocked at what happened and that the people of Monahans don’t act like that.
“It does not reflect most of the people of Monahans,” Cutbirth said. “In fact, you’re going to have some extremely outraged people in Monahans because someone was treated this way, especially a veteran.”
Cutbirth recommended that Patel fire the employee to make things right, but said neither the city nor its people can run Patel’s business for him.
The Odessa American was unable to speak directly with Patel on Thursday.